Thanksgiving Dinner matching the memories not the food

I no longer care what the sommeliers say. With Thanksgiving dinner there can be no perfect wine to match the meal. At our house we will have roasted turkey and field-smoked ham; bread stuffing and cranberry sauce; roasted new potatoes and sweet potato casserole; stuffed mushrooms and roasted carrots – a potluck of the ancient and the new. If there is balance, it is achieved on the plate, not with the wine.

I know the adages, and have been guilty of repeating them myself: pair rich foods with rich wines, sweet wines with salty foods, high acid wines with sweet foods. In other words, there is a perfect wine for each side dish, but no single wine for the meal.

Thanksgiving is about the food on the table and the friends and family that are gathered around it. It is a time of giving thanks for what we have, and a time of remembering those who are no longer with us. Wine, if it is to be enjoyed, must serve the purpose of bringing out these feelings of thanksgiving and remembrance. It is wine’s role as social lubricant, and not the match, that is important.

So these are my pairings for this year’s feast. My wife has selected a magnum of Domaine Carneros sparkling wine for the appetizers and social hour, not because it pairs with the passed cheese blobs, but because it reminds her a happy experience at the Domaine one summer afternoon. I have selected an older vintage of Merry Edwards Pinot Noir, not because it matches the food, but because it brings back memories of a trip to the Russian River in the days before internet search. James and Cori have selected our Occasio 2009 Zinfandel, not because it will match the turkey (although it actually might come close), but because it was the first wine we ever made together. And our youngest is selecting our Opportunity late bottled vintage port for dessert because his first legal wine in a restaurant was a 21 year old port from his birth year.

These wines, as well as others from our guests, will be shared around our table this Thanksgiving – not because of their suitability with the food, but because of the stories they tell and the memories they recall.

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